Outside beneath a bright sun and under Thomas Roma’s guise a dog park becomes an empire of dirt. Nothing about Roma is as simple as it seems, only as successful as it is ridiculous. In its insurmountable tumultuous uncertainty only he could yield such successful impulse from a pack, a park, a pit, a pile of balls-dirt-and-dogs. He is the best kind of fool, equally his photographs. How does something as superficial as a dog photograph become so baffled in artistry and captivation? Maybe because they really aren’t pictures of dogs – “dirt and shadows” he would suggest.
That’s so stupid it’s brilliant. I love these photographs, you either do or you don’t. After all, dog photographs tend to work that way.
Grasping at the images in Plato’s Dogs is far more abstract than literal. Parts mesh together flat and full—coaxing viewers to work into the images to create depth. A new sort of Roma narrative lurks inside the pictures. Self-referential and prehistoric, yet somehow totally new. Eyes seeking shadows, secrets and sizes. No man—new beast—a dark opaque flesh spills across. Which way is up? Perhaps the imagination of that is more important.
The photos adorn phantom figures in prickle and thorn. Submitting to Roma’s uncertainty these photos of dogs become someone else. The Earth is very much the picture. “Doing different magic tricks require different skills.” Roma has a way of keeping interest. All the parts of Plato’s Dogs interact with one another. Gamboled nuisances sustain surprise. Melodies seem to find him. Roma sees them through until they sing. Play is not less important—it’s more. These photos are different – he says, “BE DIFFERENT! Abstraction works because it feeds our brain that’s nonverbal.” Abstraction has a kind of clarity. It’s only an idea, not a belief system or recognizable world.
“People don’t change because they think they’ll lose. To be successful at some point you have to disappoint people. We’re filling ourselves up. It’s a blast!” Making the self uncomfortable is all there is.
Efrem Zelony-Mindell is a writer, photographer and independent curator based in New York, USA.
Thomas Roma, Plato’s Dogs
Book published by powerHouse Books
Exhibition ended on December 23rd, 2016
Steven Kasher Gallery
515 W 26th St
New York, NY 10001